Work-Life Strategies & Solutions

On the Evolution of Work Systems in the Digital Economy

Tag Archives: technology

5 Factors That Determine How Innovations Gain Adoption

innovation - 3

innovation – 3 (Photo credit: nyoin)

One question telework advocates often entertain but can’t definitively answer is, “When will working anywhere and anytime gain more widespread acceptance?” Having researched this topic extensively, I’ve seen plenty of predictions that didn’t come to pass. Moreover, many are scratching their heads asking questions along the lines of, “Why hasn’t this happened already? We had the technological capability back in…” Yes, to a great extent, we are still working like it’s 1980. Furthermore, others muse that it will take a disaster of epic proportions (e.g., major natural disaster, pandemic, etc.) for the powers that be to change the way we work.

We know that new ideas and situations are scary to many, however I wanted to go beyond the scariness factor. Delving into factors that come into play with regard to coming up with a good, educated guess only opened up more issues to think about. Upon researching why it’s so difficult to predict if and when innovations gain acceptance, I came upon this wonderful explanation of factors which provided much fodder for thinking about the issue of resistance to telework. Excerpt: Read more of this post

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Keeping Up with Technology: Your Interest Level is the Limit

Recently, I was given this friendly warning: When you’re old and gray, you’ll see what it’s like to be behind the times and to be uncomfortable with the new tools and gadgets. As many of us can attest, this association between age and obsolescence is pervasive and rarely questioned.

Life experience, however, has shown me that the actual cause of not being able to keep up isn’t age but lack of interest. If we take the established age groups – Baby Boomers, Generations X, Y, and Z (the Millennials) and parse everyone in each group out according to interest level in new technologies, wouldn’t this provide a more accurate, fine-grained reflection of who’s ahead and behind on the latest technologies? Perhaps you’ll see where that aforementioned association comes from. However, aging isn’t the root cause of falling behind. Read more of this post

Social Bonding Over Distance: Sociomental Activity Trumps Face-to-Face Interaction

During a time of concern over technologically-mediated interaction supplanting face-to-face interaction and how technologically-mediated interaction might negatively impact social connections, Connecting: How We Form Social Bonds and Communities in the Internet Age by Mary Chayko, Ph.D., Assistant Professor and Chair of Sociology at the College of St. Elizabeth, is heresy… and I like it! Having only mentioned her work in this post, I’ll now expound upon the following conclusions drawn from interviews with “low-tech” and “high-tech” participants: Read more of this post

Social Bonding Over Distance & a Look at the Lives of Digital Natives

Do we really need to commute back and forth every workday in order to foster and maintain relationships with a given group of people? Let’s consider this question. During my exploration of how dispersed teams function, I’ve encountered people (such as described in this post) who meet in person as infrequently as once a quarter. It surprises most people that this can work. Speaking from my own experience as a team member of Better Collaboration, I’m happy to report that there are other factors (aside from opportunities for in-person interaction) contributing to a sense of cohesion.

Upon comparing my experiences with in-person versus technologically-mediated meetings, I’ve observed that having a strong shared sense of purpose and common interests helps transcend the physical distance factor. So when I hear people say they would rather have others drive from one city to another just for the sake of getting everyone in one room for every meeting rather than have occasional virtual meetings, I wince. Read more of this post

The Evolutionary, the Catastrophic, and the Transformational

Great Transitions

Are you a technological evolutionist, catastrophist, or transformationist? This post will go over the meaning of these worldviews against the backdrop of technological advancement and globalization as considered by Great Transitions: The Promise and Lure of the Times Ahead (Rasin, P.; Banuri, T.; Gallopin, G.; Gutman, P.; Hammond, A.; Kates, R.; & Swart, R.; 2002).

In comparing the magnitude of the current technological transition to previous major transitions (e.g., stone age to early civilization and early civilization to the current modern era), Great Transitions, which is available here, introduces six worldviews with respect to technological advances, each describing a possible future. These worldviews encompass various philosophical and political thoughts including, “technological optimists and pessimists, market celebrants and Cassandras, social engineers and anarchists. Crudely, archetypal social philosophies can be placed in three broad streams – the evolutionary, the catastrophic, and the transformational…” (p. 9) and these are explained further below (pp. 9-10): Read more of this post

Is it conceivable? Thinking of a way to reconstruct a society in which all the work is being performed by technology makes for an interesting thought exercise indeed. However, some thinkers (such as Andrew McAfee in his TED presentation – see my previous post “The Move Towards Self-Employment“) do see the possibility of a life where people are freed up to do other things. Can the currently assumed exchange between work and consumption be broken? Can the current unemployment situation be but a painful transition on to a life that is ultimately better? If money no longer mattered, perhaps some people would still be working and striving, but for different rewards (such as popularity or mere thrill of competition) as one of my conversation partners hypothesized. This possibility has optimists exclaiming “100% unemployment now!” However if we are striving towards this type of society, one of the worst risks we take is that our creations turn on us and we live out an event akin to “The Terminator: Rise of the Machines.” On the other hand, the way we currently work is already ruining people’s health and therefore slowly killing a good number of us so, if things keep going the way they are, the issue of our welfare becomes moot. Check out this interesting blog post, “Is 100% unemployment realistic, desirable, and statelessly doable?”

In defense of anagorism

I find it hard to imagine a situation in which all real needs can be satisfied without any work being performed by people. I find it equally hard to believe that we will ever see full employment; understood to mean enough jobs to go around. Automation is real, and it’s inconceivable to me that the future needs all of us. Thus, as long as we are living under a market economy, some of us will be expendable.

Kurt Vonnegut envisioned this scenario in Player Piano, in which people not in-demand enough to merit a paying gig were relagated to the humiliation and indignity of the “Reeks and Wrecks,” a make-work program created to provide the illusion of being a contributing member of society, but the illusion wore thin rather quickly. In Player Piano, the “engineers and managers” are the last dominos left standing. As the nightmare is materializing…

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Office Robot Avatars for Telecommuters

Which do you think is likely to occur first? Sophisticated, remote-controlled, look-alike robots becoming affordable to the average person or full-time telework (for jobs that can be done remotely) gaining widespread acceptance? I’ve often wondered this. If it’s the former, and since I’m petite in stature, I imagine I would stash my stand-in double in the workstation’s coat closet so it would be ready to warm that office chair bright and early! I’d command it to work, and I’d collect the paychecks from afar. I’ve often shared this fantasy in jest without knowing, until recently, that this idea has manifested into reality in the past several years. It’s called telepresence.

The following are video clips of such a robot developed by Willow Garage, and it seems to run smoothly. Read more of this post

Nine Shift: Work, Life, and Education in the 21st Century

By William A. Draves and Julie Coates, Nine Shift: Work, Life, and Education in the 21st Century opens up with some historical overview about the transition from the Agrarian Age to the Industrial Age in the United States and compares this to the transition from the Industrial Age to the Information Age. The authors aptly noted cultural resistance to new technology and transitions in work systems both at the turn of the 1800s and at the time of the writing of their book. In doing so they present interesting and entertaining side stories such as L. Frank Baum‘s writing of The Wizard of Oz to convey pro-Agrarian values and resistance to encroaching Industrialization. Read more of this post

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